Monday, June 28, 2010

Tears, cheers and bellyaches

It's been an emotional couple of weeks and the title of this post sums it up pretty well (to pinch an adapt a Happy Mondays cd title). It's funny how some things hit you when you don't expect them to, and yet other occasions you think you'll freak out or crumble, and you don't. Either way the emotional rollercoaster continues. I'm still in the process of extracting myself from the past, but I'm also beginning to tick off anniversaries. The line 'it's been one year since...' has gone through my head so many times of late.

A week ago it was twelve months since I ran away. After a particularly awful confrontation while still in the house with the Ex, I ran to a friends place to crash for the night. I happened to be out with her on the anniversary of that day, and it was nice to be able to thank her for being such a great friend, and we both thought about how far we'd come in 12 months. Thanks again Nej. You'll never know how much it meant to have a safe, warm place to go and be greeted with open arms.

The following day was the anniversary of Peter and I meeting up and starting to figure 'us' out. We planned to spend the night in town, like we had 12 months ago. I had been so excited, and yet on the tram into the city my bottom lip trembled. Soon after checking in, I was crying. When I think back to where I was last year, and how traumatic it was, it overwhelms me. Sometimes I can focus on where I am now, and the hard road and all I've learnt about myself along the way. And sometimes I have a flash back to being in that painful moment and I crumble all over again. Not for long, but just perhaps letting go of the hurt I had to hold on to, to get through each day. Control it. Stay focused. Suppress it. But now I am in a happier place, the safety valve has popped and with each sob, I am letting go.

On the weekend the house I had with my Ex was up for auction. He asked if I could come and help him clean, and I couldn't really say no. He has been behaving and we were trying to calmly negotiate our way towards a settlement. So I went along. It was an incredibly weird experience - being in a house that was my home, and feeling like a visitor. It had been 10 months since I moved out. Unfortunately, also like old times, the Ex decided to drag up all the crap we've been over thousands of times. It distresses me, as he can still only point the finger of blame at me. What this highlights is his inability for self reflection, to see this from both sides, and his complete lack of personal responsibility. When saying we ended up speaking through lawyers because he had threatened me, he responded saying he was hurt and so was completely justified in saying what he had...and that he would never apologise for it.

Again, this made me think of what a better place I am in now. I had wondered how I would feel about the house, but apart from missing a few certain aspects of it, I can let it go. Easily. It is not my home. I don't belong there anymore...AT ALL. The good news is that it sold, and we got an OK price for it. The next step is to figure out a financial settlement between the Ex and I. Many people have said I must be thrilled that it's all over. And in truth, it feels like another step towards the finishing line. Sure, it's a freaking HUGE step, but I'm not free of the bear trap around my ankle yet. I've just managed to drag it along the road a bit further.

With each step, I feel more assured about who I am. And even if my bottom lip trembles, or I shed a tear after a stressful time, I weirdly feel stronger afterwards. I was just looking up the Friedrich Nietzsche quote 'That which does not kill us makes us stronger' and found this other corker from him 'A pair of powerful spectacles has sometimes sufficed to cure a person in love'. Funny, and true. And sometimes those spectacles need not only to be focussed on others, but on ourselves. We can only learn from our mistakes if we take the care to look for them. And blaming the world and everyone else for things that go wrong keeps you firmly rooted in the same spot. We are all human, and we all play a part in our own future. And I can take it on the chin, think about it, learn from it (hopefully!) and take another big step forward.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Marriage Versus Weddings

Well there's no guesses for what's been on my mind of late. Yep - Peter and I have decided that we want to be married before the year is out, and have booked the Celebrant of our choice. This leaves us with about 4 months to plan our wedding. This should be a piece of cake, we thought...we don't want anything big or fancy. Small. Intimate. Affordable. Joyous. Us.

Interestingly, our friend Daniel posted something on facebook about his two friends getting married. What followed was bewildering. Who knew that innocent statement would invoke so many varying opinions. Here are some quotes "Marriage is so yesterday. Why do people still do that crazy ownership ritual?", and from the same person "it's always a nice event to bring a tear to the eye of every girl waiting for Prince Charming". This from someone else - "presents, lots and lots of presents! That's what it's all about isn't it? Oh, and the honeymoon and the party afterwards too of course" and more from person two "I can see the benefits but it's the reason that it is beneficial that I think is fucked up. It's the church and the government having control of people, basically why you are disadvantaged if you don't get married...if you're not doing it for sentimental reasons...which is a bit cinderella...snow white...what have you, fed into us from a young age as an idealism".

Wow. I've also had comments from friends who said they didn't think I was the marrying kind, and a sister-in-law who thought I was anti-marriage. You know, I've never said anything on the subject at all. I've always been thrilled when friends got married. But I suppose I always thought it was a personal thing. I never hounded my previous partners about getting married, because it was never a deal breaker in a relationship. It's more an optional extra, and these days I'm driving the luxury model relationship. It's a thrilling thing if you have the right person and are doing it for the right reasons. Which from my perspective has nothing to do with presents or parties, and everything to do with two people and how they feel about each other. If it's meaningful and significant to the couple, then what harm does it do? Hell, as the legal wrangles I've written about previously will attest, people's rights to each others assets is not restricted to marriage.

Interestingly, The Age had a lift out a couple of weekends ago discussing 'The state of the union: love and marriage in modern Australia'. A must read, I thought, especially considering all the discussion from everyone. Angela Blakston summed up that today in Australia, people are getting married for an array of different reasons (including that old favourite religion, or perhaps to start a family after living together for a few years etc). Divorce rates are dropping, marriage rates are slowly increasing after years of dropping, as people are getting married older than in years gone by. And they are more likely to have lived together first. She suggests that marriage is evolving, but weddings haven't. The idea of the white dress and all the suits, groomsmen and bridesmaids have been reproduced generation after generation. Food for thought...perhaps.

A colleague at work was incensed recently when we were discussing plans for my hitching. She ranted about the idea that it has to be the greatest day of a woman's life. Therefore if you don't get married, you have never reached the pinnacle of happiness (and yes, she is single, before you ask). I want it to be a great day, but not THE greatest day of my life. Hopefully there will be many more. There's no Bridezilla here. I would argue with Angela Blakston on the point about weddings evolving. In principle they may be done the same way, however they have indeed changed. They've become consumerised. It's a lifestyle moment you buy. To back this up - read Catherine Deveny's article on the Melbourne Bridal Expo. Awfulness personified.

This leads me to where our plans are now. Peter and I brainstormed lovely places to get married, the type of catering, what music we'd like etc. But we are struck again and again by difficulty in finding a location. The problem: we can't find a 'room' for hire without strings attached. And for the most part this means inhouse catering charging anything from $50 - $120 a head for food that's not really what we'd like. It's become an industry, so much so that folk like us, who don't have tens of thousands to spend are left reeling and trawling for alternatives.

It's been eye opening and frustrating. But it has also made us aware of what is a priority. We want somewhere relaxed and comfortable, with good access via public transport and space for parking, wheel chair access for my special needs niece, and the possibility of flexibility with catering. Afternoon tea with a glass of champagne shouldn't be that difficult, but the search continues. It saddens me that marriage for many has become all about the wedding. Get yourself that stretch hummer, this dress, that ring, and serve the right canapes and you're day will be perfect. But the wedding should be demonstrative of the marriage. A reminder about what is really important, and at the end of the day it's about two people and their relationship. And sharing that with their friends and family. After all, once the party is over, real life begins, and that can be the hard part. You can't buy happiness, and it doesn't just happen. Daniel wrote on facebook that in his experience (from a twice divorced perspective) that "it takes two to make it work and one to destroy it". This is true of all relationships, married or otherwise. You both need your eye on the prize, and the prize isn't the wedding's the marriage.

So with all that in mind, the search continues. It has become more about finding somewhere that feels like us, that will allow us to do things a little different, and more reflective of the bride and groom. Somewhere that we can share the day with people we love, in a relaxed and fun atmosphere. We will find somewhere eventually, but all I know is that I will have the right person standing by my side on the day and that's all that matters. Our eyes are on the right prize.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pretty on the inside...

OK. I'm about to write something I've thought about writing a number of times. I've shied away, due to general embarrassment, but hey, blogging is baring your soul to the universe, so here goes. I was inspired to finally tackle this due to two things. The first - some graffiti written in the toilets at work (University Library). On the wall was written "Do you consider yourself pretty?".

A timeless question for those of the female persuasion. I wrote way back at the beginning of this blog, about being the goofy sidekick in my group of friends when I was growing up. Not the popular or attractive one, I was always more tom-boyish and therefore found my niche playing for laughs instead. Shyer in big groups, or around boys though. Hiding behind my fringe, and hoping to blend into the background.

In my 20s I still found myself surrounded by intelligent, funky and gorgeous friends. The painful bit was that on the one hand I embraced the *fuck you* mantra of the car crash currently known as Courtney Love and Hole's song Pretty on the inside. All brash Riot Grrl, with feminist attitude and the idea that brains and personality would get me further than looks. Hell, they were rules I could play within. But as much as I wanted this to resonate, deep inside there was a feeling of inferiority. I'd beat myself up and wish I thinner, prettier, funnier...different to who I was.

My 30s continued along a similar road, though I gained more confidence at work. Thanks to supportive and fabulous colleagues and friends, I could now speak in public and was told that I was quite good at it. I began to face things that terrified me. And in my late 30s I began to write, as openly and honestly as I could. And again the feedback has been good. But it is only recently in the last year that I have begun to let go, and stop being so hard on myself. A friend commented on a photo of me on facebook, saying I was pretty, and it freaked me out. I feel like an idiot writing this, but it's true. It was a bit of a kick up the arse making me acutely aware that how we see ourselves is never how others see us. If only we could see what they do.

The second thing that made me write about this subject, was a documentary that Peter and I stumbled across on SBS on friday night. I've found the complete thing on Vimeo and I urge you all to be brave and check it out. It was a show called The Perfect Vagina. It discussed the issue of young women, girls really, having plastic surgery on their fanny. I winced more than once I have to admit. In this age of surgery and photoshop are women being made to feel even crapper about themselves? What was interesting about this doco was the plaster cast wall of lady bits. Mesmerising. It made me realise that we are only fed a select image of what we should look like, as apposed to how we ALL really appear. The short answer is that everyone is unique and different. And I'm not just talking frou frous here.

Height, weight, bums, boobs, skin, hair...everything. Unique. Different. There is no 'normal' but unfortunately there are ideals. And perhaps a tiny handful of people who can measure up to that. It's good to be reminded that we out-number them, so what a pity the sea of oddments haven't started an uprising. The host of the doco said in one poignant moment - that she wished she could tell the 20 year old having surgery, that the one thing you learn as you get older is that 'it doesn't really matter'. How you look or the fact that you don't fit the mould isn't important. As she said it I smiled. She also said there was no point trying to tell the 20 year old as it's something you hopefully learn as you go through life.

So when I saw the graffiti, I was saddened. As women, or people, are we always destined to beat ourselves up? Or is it all part of the journey? The good news is that I feel I am reaching a place of comfort regarding myself...lumpy thighs, blotchy skin, saggy bits and all. I have a body that's had a life, and hopefully a brain that smart enough to understand and appreciate that fact. So, do I consider myself pretty? Sometimes. More importantly, do I consider myself happy? I'm pleased to answer - yes.